Putin's and Medvedev's stroke in Georgia has placed the Bush Administration (not to mention the legacy of Clinton's policy of militarizing humanitarian intervention) on the horns of dilemma that threatens to make both the Bush Administration's policy of messianic unilateralism and the United States an international laughing stock.
On the one hand, under the Trojan Horse of promoting democracy with bombs and bullets or by using political fronts like the National Endowment for Democracy to meddle in or rig local elections, the Clinton and Bush Administrations created a situation where today the US reserves the right to intervene anywhere in the world, including the backyard of any regional power, like Russia. Our own actions show that the goal of promoting democracy is a Trojan Horse, however. When a party we do not like -- e.g., Hamas -- wins a relatively fair election, Bush, like his predecessors, has worked to undo the result and promote a less democratic alternative. Promoting democracy does not matter, because the game has degenerated into unlimited greed -- i.e., grabbing or controlling energy sources and/or transfer routes and pumping ever-increasing gobs of money into the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex or MICC, which in theory should have shrunk drastically, once its raison d'etre -- the Cold War -- disappeared.
On the other hand, Bush refuses to repudiate the Monroe Doctrine, which asserts that no European (or now Asiatic) power can be allowed to meddle or intervene in the Untied States' backyard, and which we now define as the entire western hemisphere -- even though that doctrine has been construed in the past to be consistent with the right of the United States to prop up vicious dictatorial governments (e.g., Samoza in Nicaragua), oppose legitimately elected governments (e.g., Allende in Chile), or annex land which was held by others before President Monroe proclaimed his doctrine (e.g, Mexico or Spain).
The message delivered by Russia's lightning move into Georgia (which it should be remembered was triggered by Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia, with the tacit, if not overt, encouragement of politicians in the United States) should be obvious: unlimited ambitions in someone else's backyard can not be achieved with limited resources, and behavior that assumes otherwise makes one look like a fool. The Russian stroke showed everyone how the US Emperor had no clothes.
Nevertheless, the message seems to have been lost to the self-referencing leaders of Versailles on the Potomac. Notwithstanding the fact that Russia just demonstrated how a small military force could easily make a joke of Article 5 of the NATO treaty (which says an attack on one is an attack on all), Vice President Cheney subsequently visited Ukraine and Georgia to reassure the leaders in each country that it is in the undying strategic interest of United States to defend both countries by getting them into NATO as fast as possible. The Europeans are justifiably getting nervous, as can be seen in Sarkozy's rush to cut a cease fire deal between Russia and Georgia, as well as the EU's tepid response to Russia's stroke into Georgia.
European nervousness ought to be understandable. Unlike the United States, which experienced a relatively small loss of human life and almost no material damage to its civilian infrastructure in World Wars I and II or the Cold War (even at Pearl Harbor, the targets were largely military and any civilian damage was what the Pentagon would today call "collateral damage"), the Europeans -- including, perhaps especially, the Russians -- learned the hard way in the 20th Century that messianic unilateralism is a prescription for unending conflict and cultural collapse, not to mention mass material destruction, and huge losses of life. After all, it was Michael Gorbachev's Soviet Union that ended the Cold War, dissolved the Warsaw Pact, and peacefully withdrew from from Eastern Europe, and then dissolved itself, after being promised by President G.H.W. Bush that NATO would not expand into the void created by the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact -- a promise subsequently broken by the Clinton Administration and then again by the current Bush Administration.
Nevertheless, Cheney's strange gambit in Georgia and Ukraine still forces one to ask the question: Should these countries be put under the blanket protection of Article 5 of the NATO Treaty?
Sir Malcolm Rifkin, a former British foreign secretary, recently penned an excellent analysis explaining why it is a delusion to think that the members of the NATO Alliance can -- or should -- place Georgia and the Ukraine under the protection of Article 5.